Triptease is in the business of helping Hotel to get more direct booking. It offers cost compare services for hotel website that will show all rates across Online Travel Agent (OTA) channels. In its studies it has found that travellers prefer booking direct. Here is what they say:
“When guests see price parity, surely they will still book through an OTA that they know and have used before?” Nope. We’ve heard this question a lot so thought we’d take you through how guests really react to OTA prices.
It goes without saying that as a value-conscious marketplace, consumers will almost always go for the cheapest option when booking any form of travel or accommodation. But when consumers are presented the same offering for the same price, which do they choose? Research by Koddi shows that if the hotel price is the same price as the OTA, 65% of consumers would choose to book directly with the hotel.”
Even Without Best Rates Travelers Prefer Booking Direct
“The same experiment also proved that even in scenarios where there isn’t price parity, consumers still prefer to book direct. Where there is a 1% difference in price (with hotels being more expensive) 63% of consumers will still choose the hotel. Where there is a 10% difference in price (again, with hotels being more expensive), 51% of consumers will still choose to book directly with the hotel. So why, when it’s not even cheaper, do so many consumers still prefer to book direct? There are a number of reasons.”
I’ll share this finding on how to get even with OTAs. First most travelers who book on OTAs will check out your hotel website. So it is vital that you convince them that booking direct offers the best value. And that does not always mean best price:
Its a good idea to have a dedicated page of the Benefits of booking direct. In addition you should add a blog on why book direct. In the villa resort examples linked here the special offer for booking-direct is reiterated on the villa pages, the FAQ index as well as throughout the website.
According to recent studies, the Metasearch Direct Marketing Channel for Hotels is working well for small hotels. Using the latest technology, a hotel can now get listed on the metasearch engines to get more direct bookings at a lower cost than with the competing Online Travel Agents (OTAs).
As Max Starkov, CEO of HeBS Digital, says: “Direct online bookings are by far the most lucrative and cost-efficient bookings at any hotel… across the HeBS hotel client portfolio, the average direct channel distribution costs (property website) are 4.5%, compared to the hefty OTA commissions of 18%-25%.”
What is a Metasearch Platform
Metasearch is somewhere in between hotel direct sales and Online Travel Agents (OTAs) assisted bookings. Many hotels are now creating listings of direct bookings on these cost compare giants with the help of new Metasearch agents like Seekda.com. It is a smart way to market in the age of smart data marketing.
Metasearch platforms are the search sites that allow travelers to search for accommodation across many travel sites. They are the internet comparison shopping sites. You may be familiar with Kayak. It originally presented travelers with a spectrum of hotel booking options before sending a traveler to an OTA to close the sale. That model has evolved to include booking buttons directly within the results. It is called ‘metasearch’ because it consolidates info from several places. They work closely with OTAs like Booking.com.
Trivago is one of the newest and fastest growing of these platforms. It represents over 1 million hotels and compares prices from over 250 booking sites. These include all the OTAs as well as some major chain hotels, destination sites and a growing number of small hotels that hook up with meta agents like Seekda.
You may have seen Trivago in operation, on TV and in the news. It plays big in advertising and on the net. With Trivago and sites like it, users can search for hotels by name or by keywords, such as “San Diego” or “St. Lucia Villas”. They can sort the search results by price and feature to help them in their buying decision.
Often a hotel may show up with a lowest price on one OTA (e.g., Expedia) for specific dates, while a competing property may have a lower price on Booking.com. Users can pick and choose among many options. This means they do not have to shop around on the OTA sites, destination sites or hotel sites directly.
Well… that is in theory. Best Rates are never made public because OTAs tie hotels up with “Rate Parity Clauses” that forbid them to make a better deal public.
The Fallacy of Best Deals
What travelers don’t fully understand is that hotels are contractually bound not to publish prices that undercut the OTA. Hotels and other sites can, however, privately offer best deals that are not displayed to the public. More and more hotels are pushing thebenefits of booking direct with a program that lets guests register to get best rates and special offers.
Google’s limited offer is an example of just that. Hotels on this program may discount the price significantly. However, searchers must be logged into their Google account to see the best deal. This is an addition to the normal search results that show hotels that match the search criteria (e.g., St. Lucia Hotels) and are ranked in Google search results.
The Special Offers displayed are only for the hotels in the program and require that the hotels are aligned with a Google booking partner. This is a little different to the Google Hotels Ads.
Google Goes Meta with Commission Based Hotel Ads
Today, Google Hotel Ads takes over from Google Places and Hotel Finder.
It lets travelers who are ready to buy click a Book button on the search results and get a display of rates and booking options.
In the details for a hotel, Google shows the OTAs and Hotel’s own website if the hotel is subscribing to the service through a Goggle-preferred booking partner.
With their partner booking engines, a user can book the hotel directly. The booking engine partner takes a small handling fee or commission and the hotel offers a minimum 10% commission to Google.
The whole arrangement is handled by the Google-preferred booking partner and does not include booking with OTAs. The booking is called a direct booking but it is, in fact, an agent-assisted transaction. It is very similar to a booking with Expedia, except in this case, the OTA is Google. That is not a word that “the big G” likes but it is pretty close to what they are doing. The fact is they are showing many options so, in reality, they are a meta search cost compare site. The difference is that they are also taking the lion’s share of the commission. This is not typical with other Metas, which send the bookings to the OTA or their own subscribers.
With Google Ads, commission starts at 10% but the partner engine and hotel customer can choose between 10, 12 or 15%. Commissions can be adjusted to get better expose as the higher commissions get better placement and more bookings.
TripAdvisor Moves into Meta Space
TripAdvisor, know for its Hotel Reviews, is also emerging as a metasearch platform, although its route is quite complex and filled with spikes. These ‘spikes’ include its instant booking, its ties with Booking.com and its own TripConnect that ties into hotel booking engines.
Although TripAdvisor started out as a review site, it has over the last few years moved into the bookings space aggressively. It works closely with Booking.com to offer instant bookings on all of the Booking.com properties and will also pull in rates from other OTAs. Its own instant bookings are also offered using the agent model of the OTAs. That simply means that they charge a commission if the guest stays at your hotel and you do not get charged either per click or if browsers see your listing on their site.
Although the commissions can be less, they will range from 8% to 20% based on the marketing package you choose.
Hotels Frustrated Trying To Understand the Differences
Hotels get pretty frustrated when trying to understand metasearch and often think they are just OTAs. In some cases they are – for instance, Kayak is owned by Priceline and Trivago is owned by Expedia. TripAdvisor is closely aligned with Booking.com, so when your hotel shows up on one of these, you may get booked via the OTA.
Google is new in the bookings game and they are blurring the lines that were drawn between search and bookings. That was inevitable as OTAs have, over the years, become the search engines for travel. Cost comparison is imperative for a traveler looking for hotels and Google really had no option but to get into that game.
I wrote about this happening a long time ago and said then that Google had to compete with OTAs or lose their relevance as a search engine for travel. At one time small hotels were ranked on Google’s first page for relevant keywords. Today small hotel brands are ranking for brand searches but hardly ever for relevant terms. OTAs have filled that space.
Unless you show up in the metasearch results with links to your own website or to a friendly Metasearch agent booking service, you will get booked by an OTA or not at all.
Metasearch Management Systems
With today’s technology, we now have metaserach management systems that help hotels get displayed directly in the cost compare aggregator sites. Hotels can manage their experience across all metasearch engines. That means manage rates, availability, photos, content and appearance.
This is great for hotels as it now means that even small hotels, villas, apartments, B&Bs and resorts of all kinds can compete for direct bookings against the established OTAs.
It gives independent hotels and accommodation suppliers the ability to be seen alongside the OTAs. It is a chance for users to book directly on a hotel’s own site, thus shifting some away from OTAs.
Metasearch management with companies like Seekda sees a growing trend for shoppers to check out the direct booking option, especially if it is managed in a way that illustrates the advantages of booking direct.
These services lower the cost per client acquisition as metasearch rates are less than OTAs’.
Ladies, don’t go just yet! Plenty of Goodies are here just for you.
If you have ever been a shop owner or brick-and-mortar sales person you know the feeling: the urge of wanting to run after a customer that comes in, looks around, seems genuinely interested then walks out of your shop empty-handed. Perhaps you could run down the road and offer them a coupon or a special deal. Well, that is sort of what happens with online re-targeting. It’s a way to remind travelers about your brand after they visit your site and then either go off to visit other sites or just close their browser at that point. Travelers look at 20 to 30 travel-related sites, so the chances of getting a booking on the first visit is highly unlikely (about 2% on average book; 98% do not).
Travel Shoppers Have a Long Buy Cycle
Come on! Book or we will just keep re-targeting you.
All travel shoppers will only book when they are ready and from start to finish, the buying cycle can take days, weeks or even months of research, planning and just considering the vast array of options and family wishes. At the start, shoppers are just doing research and they move on very quickly and can simply forget what sites they visited. Re-targeting can keep your offer in front of them as they browse the web, check out reviews and directories, look at articles and news and visit 3rd party information sites about travel. With re-targeting your site, visitors will see ads for your hotel on the sites they visit after leaving yours. It is a way to keep top-of-mind, reminding them of your brand throughout their planning journey. If you keep doing this, your ads will appear and showcase you while they are planning and, most importantly, when they are ready to book.
This re-marketing is very effective as it targeting people who have shown interest in your offer. It is also cost effective and a lower cost per click that most traditional internet ads like Adwords. That is due to the fact that it is dealing with real interest. The conversion rates are also higher than traditional ads which means it has a good Return On Investment (ROI).
Re-Targeting to Boost Direct Bookings
Re-targeting is a valuable and effective strategy in following travel planners whom you can re-target to book direct . It is a vital part of any “Why Book Direct Strategy“. We posted that article using a case study of a small St. Lucia Villa holiday resort that has implemented a BookDirect campaign. The important fact is that hotels need to court travelers and encourage them to bookdirect by reminding them of the benefits of doing so. Re-targeting is an effective strategy and it is all the more effective when used with other marketing tactics that boost direct booking. Meta Search channels are now accessible to small hotels and this is an import hotel channel that will deliver bookings that are free of OTA commissions. You do have to pay to get travelers to your website but generally it is far lower cost than the traditional distribution channels.
Reminding shoppers of who you are while they are still shopping is a main component of “Re-targeting Book Direct Strategies”. It may seen daunting to implement a re-targeting campaign to boost direct bookings. In fact, it is now quite simple with lots of helpful avenues to choose from.
Companies to Work With
There are several re-targeting companies that make it a breeze to be seen across the net. As long as you understand the basic concept, you will find that the new re-targeting ad platforms take care of all the work. The basic concept is that the Re-targeting company will put a bit of code – a cookie – that tags visitors. It can then monitor their behavior and deliver your ads to their “display network”.
The platforms include companies like AdRoll, Perfect Audience, Triggit, Fetchback, Meteora and ReTargeter. All work by targeting those travelers who have visited your site. Google offers search re-targeting. The advertising platform Chango also offer a search targeter for those searching on Google, Yahoo, or Bing. There are a growing number of specialized services like Vizury that specialize in cross device re-marketing and niche-specific solutions for enterprise-level businesses.
LiquidAds and Personalized Shopping
AdRoll has one of the more extensive traditional re-targeting networks, working with advertisers that include: Facebook Exchange, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. It reaches 98% of sites on the Internet. They also have a strategy called LiquidAds. These are ads that can change in tune with the pages that the traveler’s web browser has visited.
With these services your ad may appear anywhere on the internet that advertises 3rd party services and products. You may show up on Google’s network, on destination portals and in meta search channels that can direct shoppers back to your site to book or to look. This is the reason why we have stressed the need to offer a set of benefits for booking direct. In many cases the re-targeted ads might send shoppers to your own page that explains the benefits of booking directly with your hotel.
This is a clever idea, fully in line with the move to more personalized travel shopping experiences. New intelligent systems are analyzing users’ profiles and behaviors to deliver a highly personalized travel shopping experience. Tracking your searches and ad viewing is a good indication of you interest. Showing you ads for places you have looked at is getting quite personal. See also PersonaHolidays.com for the latest example of personality matching (link in Resources).
Resources for Re-targeting Book Direct Strategies
Moz has an excellent round up of the various platforms. https://moz.com/blog/comparing-the-top-4-retargeting-companies
Search Engine Land https://www.searchenginejournal.com/retargeting-ad-platforms/134168/
Personalized Holiday Shopping http://info.personaholidays.com
Why Book Direct examines how a small villa resort attracts more travelers to book directly on their own website. It is a case study of their experience and the steps they took, staring with the launch of their BookDirect blog and web page on the benefits of booking direct. It outlines many extras and special packages available for guests who book on the hotel’s own BookDirect booking engine. Winning “Why Book Direct Strategies” that boost direct bookings are covered.
The problem all small hotels face is that travelers are conditioned to think that OTAs, like Booking.com and Expedia, have the best rates. Travelers believe that they will get the best deal at an OTA and not at the hotel. Hotels are to blame for that. They have created this ‘demon in the box’ by giving specials on top of more discounts to distribution partners in order to get higher ranking.
OTAs also create lead magnets and sometimes sell rooms at a certain cost just to get people to book with them and become a loyal OTA client.
Example of How One Hotel Handles The Stereotype
Small hotels and resorts of all types – apartments, villas and bed and breakfasts as well as conventional hotels – can boost direct bookings. The strategy used by Poinsettia is a good example of what can be done to fight the stereotype that hotels don’t give travelers the best deals. It includes creating a BookDirect benefits page and linking to it on many pages of the website. On the page for The Nook – One Bedroom Villa, for example, you will find the following under the “Book” button: Check the Benefits when you BookDirect which include much more that Best Rates and Best Value Guaranteed! – This sort of notice is placed on appropriate pages of the website. Under the booking widget (the ‘Book Now’ date selector) guests are reminded that “We know St. Lucia Best”, and “We stand by to help you plan the perfect holiday”. Best rate guarantee buttons are scattered discreetly throughout the website.
Time to Fight Back Against OTA Best Price Image
Enough already! – Book direct
It is time for small hotels to fight the impression that they do not offer the best rates. It gets a little complicated when Rate Party contracts prohibit hotels from publicly displaying a better rate tn theirs. That clause is being removed in Europe and may also be removed in America in the future. In the meantime, there is a away around it. Poinsettia has implemented two BookDirect strategies:
Firstly, the best deal does not have to be a better rate or a great discount. A hotelier can offer benefits in many other ways. Poinsettia is negotiating with nearby restaurants and activities to offer their guests something extra. In one case the hotel may pay for a bottle of wine at a restaurant. Poinsettia offers a free cell phone which saves on the hassle of changing SIMs in a foreign country. They give guests free fruit, a free welcome basket, free WiFi and all sorts of ‘extras’ that may not be available when booking with an OTA. Guests need to check with the OTA to be sure they are getting the ‘extra’ – this is a power statement that OTAs do not always give the best value.
Secondly, the best rate in the case of Poinsettia is not public. Guests have to enter their email address. That signs them up to a VIP membership where they will see the best rate and be able to book villas at special discounts. This has the advantage of also having the email address to contact and keep in touch with the guest during the holiday planning process.
Drive Direct Booking Traffic to Your Site
We all know how hard it is to rank on Search engines, so that your own small hotel will show up in the first page of searches for generic keywords like ‘family hotel’ in your destination. Organic search is slowly disappearing for all but the largest suppliers. Of course, it works great if you have brand recognition and people are looking for you by name. But few small hotels are that well known. It is important that they get seen in Search and on social sites in order to become known and get booked. This is why a good “Why Book Direct Marketing Strategy” is needed.
In a recent post on Smart Data Marketing we included a tip by Ian R. Clayton, author of the book series “Marketing Hotels and Tourism Online“. In it Ian proposes a 3-Point Strategy. It is very simple and is actually just two major activities:
– One: You advertise
– Two: You re-target those travelers who visited your site from an Ad.
Re-targeting simple means that you show up with an ad on the pages travelers visit after seeing your website. This is vital as travel shoppers shop around a lot. They visit many hotels, OTA sites, TripAdvisor and all sorts of destination sites and directories.
Hardly anyone books the first time they visit your site – You need to be seen again and again!
Re-targeting Travelers with Why Book Direct Strategies
What you need to do is run your conventional ads on Google’s AdWords and on your preferred social media site. We like Facebook because it allows you to target who you want. You can also create custom audiences and ‘look-alike customers’ based on your best guests. Run the re-targeting campaign at the same time.
There are several services. We have used AdRoll and found them very helpful. They will create the ads for you (like the one here). You will need several ads of different dimensions for the various platforms and ad spots.
It’s all tied together by putting a bit of text into the page that the ads will link to. You should also have a different page to send the re-targeted clients to. If you have a Why BookDirect Benefits page that might be a good option. Take some time to try to understand what is most important to the client as well as why they may still be looking and then try to create a page that answers those questions.
With that done, visitors to your website, including those that came from your AdWords and Facebook ads, will see you on the AdRoll network of sites. The AdRoll network will include Facebook and other relevant sites that travel shoppers visit.
Get More Conversion with Animated Review Videos
Just about every travel shopper looks for reviews before booking a holiday. Most will base their decision on what the review says. HolidayHotelReviews.biz has a unique and highly effective solution to present authentic reviews from your recent guests in a animated video. A professional spokesperson introduces the review and a second voice reads what the guest said. The video animates what is said by showing images that correspond with the reviewer’s interests. If they refer to the quaint town, the farmers’ market, the beach, the breathtaking, spacious villas, the fully equipped kitchens and the amazing views, then these are featured in the video.
The effect is outstanding as travelers get to experience exactly what others loved about their stay. HHR videos are authentic: If there is something the guest did not like, the video will not gloss over it. Being 100% authentic is an absolutely vital virtue. If there is something that was not a great experience there is generally a reason. The review video will explain that and also show the managers’ response. Review videos are part of an overall campaign to build brand awareness and reputation.
About St. Lucia Villas – Poinsettia
Poinsettia St. Lucia is one of the first villa resorts to implement a “Why Book Direct Strategy”.
The island is a lush tropical holiday destination often featured in major media such as the NY Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/travel/36-hours-in-st-lucia.html
It is a popular upscale Caribbean tourism market and second home to many celebrities. It was made famous in celeb circles by Amy Winehouse who had a home there.
Poinsettia is an affordable three star villa resort, with many 5 star ratings, on the Vigie Bay close to the Harbour in Castries.
This Blog, by Linda Fox of Tnooz, covers the Startup Hotel Bonanza, a new OTA working with hotels at only 8% commission. That’s good news for hotels for sure. It is also good news for travellers as they offers a membership that gives 5% off every booking.
As they say “Our mission is to deliver a better deal for both properties and consumers by offering a fair rate of commission and a customer loyalty scheme, all run from a single, easy to use digital platform.”
Linda wondered if its too good to be true and why would they offer so much right at the start as that it like a red flag to the existing OTAs. I suggest that’s lots more like this will happen. I know they will because i am involved with one startup right now that looking at fair and reasonable commissions and will make distribution a vital partner of tourism suppliers. Check this blog for updates coming soon!
I did add a comment to this blog saying:
“Yes I agree ‘Good news sometimes does seem to be to good to be true’. But I think it is realistic. For some time now their has been speculation that OTAs will have to reduce fees.
For smaller hotels the startup rate is now 15% and Google hotel Ads start at 10% TripConnect for some hotels is 8%. Booking.com charges just 5% on direct booking to hotels that have their booking widget installed. So 8% is in line with where things are going.”
An example of how Hotel BookDirect War Heats up as OTAs Fire Back, take a look at this dialogue:
Melissa Maher, senior vice president of the Global Partner Group for Expedia, says “having hotel chains offer a variety of loyalty rates has made the booking process more cumbersome for consumers.”
OTAs : It’s More Confusing for Travelers to get Better Deals on Hotel Websites!
The argument is that Hotels BookDirect strategies are making if more difficult for travel shoppers who now have to look around more – in other words its no longer the case that the best rates are on OTAs! And here is what they are doing about it “Hotels that do not offer the same book direct to Expedia, with commission applied of course, “will no longer be as visible.”
Expedia Melissa Maher says, “Expedia lets consumers shop for travel vendors in one place. ” It has over 450 million monthly visits in more than 75 countries with over 269,000 hotels. But the Book Direct strategies are making an impact and the OTAs are on the offensive. Expedia is talking to some hotels about offering the same beast rates and offer BookDirect pricing at lower commissions.
Hotel Making Inroads With BookDirect Benefits
Hotel giants like Hilton and Mariott have invested heavily in BookDirect programs to convince travel Shoppers to book Direct and get a better. Hiltons “Stop Clicking Around” marketing campaign was “the largest launched in the company’s 97-year history.” Hilton is “offering up to 10% discounts to Hilton HHonors members who book directly” – In addition it offer loyalty points, free Wi-Fi, fast online to check-in, room selection and “digitals key via the HHonors mobile app.”
However it is an uphill battle as 57 billion HHonors Points went unearned as guests booked through a third party, according to Hiltons Mark Weinstein who added:
“There is a huge misconception that third parties always offer lower prices for our hotel rooms, which is simply not true.”
Its a marketing game that hotels just have not bothered to play and they have lost a lot of ground. The road to recovery will take determined effort to fix the misconception and get travellers booking direct with Book Direct Benefits.
Winning Strategies for Hotel to Get more BookDirect Visitors